Tera Johnson-Swartz: Paying it forward in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Tera Johnson-Swartz: Paying it forward in Steamboat

Every year around the holidays I think about gifts: family members, friends, coworkers. I even remember the less fortunate and donate extra food or money to a charity or cause, though I’ll admit, it’s usually out of guilt.

But giving any of these gifts to a complete stranger? I can’t think of any.

Until Tuesday. 

My daughter and I entered the Wildhorse Theater for a 3:30 p.m. matinee. We approached the ticket counter where the salesperson was chatting with what I assumed was another patron. But before we could announce our movie of choice, the stranger asked, “Are you here for Frozen 2?” 

I clenched my teeth. Was it sold out? My daughter had been counting down the days for when this movie would be playing in Steamboat.

She nodded with a shy grin. I’d warned her to minimize interaction with strangers.

“Here,” he said, two tickets in hand. “One adult, one child.” 

I took them but was confused. Why would he give away free tickets? Was he a promoter? He didn’t have a clipboard or name tag. He was tall with broad shoulders, still had his winter coat on and had a full head of salt and pepper hair — maybe he was a grandpa who bought too many tickets or decided on a different movie last minute. I opened my wallet.

“No, they’re for you.” He held up his hand. “No charge.”

I wandered to the concession stand bewildered by the gesture. I asked the clerk whether he knew of the man. The clerk said “no” but had an equal look of surprise and awe — what a thoughtful gift. I had to get his name. I paid for my popcorn and walked with my daughter back to the entrance to thank him again. 

“Randy,” he said, shaking my hand still clutching several more prepaid tickets. 

The entire movie I couldn’t help but think about Randy. 

He was performing in real life what I remember from the movie “Pay It Forward” where a young boy believes in the ripple effect of one drop to a still body of water. It can change the tide indefinitely — hopefully for the good.

Anyway if you’re reading, thanks Randy. Not just for the tickets but for reminding me of this important life lesson.

Gifts aren’t just for people we know or people in need. They can be for anyone, anytime, anywhere — even strangers. I hope someday, a person I surprise is open and able to continue this chain. After all, goodwill isn’t a single act. It’s a movement.

Tera Johnson-Swartz
Steamboat Springs


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